Russia’s Polish meat blockade has festered for 17 months. Moscow banned imports from its former field of operations, citing cases of fraud. Warsaw says it is meant to disrupt EU internal relations, and punish the Poles for their support of the Orange Revolution in Ukraine. Brussels considers Polish food technically safe. As long as the ban stays, Poland has said it will block a new EU-Russia cooperation pact.
Some EU diplomats suspect the Kremlin has been stringing out the meat row to avoid entering talks with the EU on opening the Russian energy market. Moscow has concluded bilateral energy deals recently with Greece, Hungary, Slovakia and Bulgaria. This stymies a common European energy policy, say officials in Brussels.
Western critics have accused Moscow of using its energy resources to exert political pressure on former allies. Trading sources said a cut in supplies of refined products to Estonia – now resumed – was a Kremlin reaction to a row with Tallinn over its relocation of a monument to the Red Army fallen.
Russian dissident and former world chess champion Garry Kasparov is among the Kremlin’s increasingly vocal political critics at home. However, the United Civil Front opposition group which he leads has been told it will be allowed to hold
a demonstration during the summit, in Samara.